This is just a taste of the finest big reds that passed the desk this November. Background notes in italics.
Oakridge Original Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Spends 3 weeks on skins post ferment and 15 months in oak.
Sorry team, here’s yet another Oakridge wine you’re going to love. The picture of what makes Yarra Cabernet a delight. Cedar, leafiness, lead pencil varietal/regional character but backed with dark berry fruit. Svelte, yet the style is ripe. Mid weight, understated, with such precise tannins. Marvel at the perfect lines and enjoy the freshness and tannin balance. Just excellent.
Best drinking: it will live for as long as you like. Great now, great in twenty years (probably). 18.8/20, 95/100. 13.3%, $62. Would I buy it? Sure would. Love to open this in twenty years.
Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2017
‘We felt the traditional Le Sol blocks could not deliver a wine that paid testament to that wines pedigree, however this material became the Gimblett Gravels Syrah’. In other words, this is declassified Le Sol and what a turnout from Julian Grounds (ex-McHenry Hohnen). Handpicked, wild fermented and spends 15 months in barrel.
As close as NZ Syrah gets to Cote Rotie. A beautiful wine, born out of a bloody hard year, that not everyone will like (but I do). Reserved, mid weight and highly aromatic. Roses, blackcurrant, dandelion and lift. Destemmed, though you could be fooled into thinking this had some whole bunches such is the ferny punch and grippy tannins. Is it too bitter? I don’t see it. Just the evenness, acidity and lightness. Lovely.
Best drinking: now to fifteen years easily. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13%, $45. Would I buy it? Well worth a bottle.
Eldorado Road Onyx Durif 2017
Spends up to 23 days post ferment on skins. 18 months in 20% new oak.
Australia’s best Durif does it again. Eldorado Road delivering magic again. Exceptional colour – like plum ink. Still, it’s a moderate wine this year, cool red berries, black fruit and a gravelly edge to the tannins. It’s cool and refined, yet no escaping that the fruit which just gets darker, deeper and blacker as the palate powers on. The net result dances on its toes, a bull of a wine, with dark fruit power, a layer of oak to lighten the mood, then real tannins. So thoughtful, intense and complex. Super.
Best drinking: now to fifteen years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.3%, $37. Would I buy it? Absolutely.
Passing Clouds The Angel 2017
100% Bendigo Cabernet and a best barrels selection.
This is the best Passing Clouds release I’ve seen in a while. It’s broad-shouldered and ripe in the true Bendigo form, but not overwrought at all. A flow of dark berry coulis, a flick of mint, the flavours tending savoury and the tannins filling out the finish. Dense, but contained and the finish is perfectly even. Sneaks up on you – I came back multiple times and it impressed me more every sip.
Best drinking: I’d wait five years and then drink over twenty years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $53. Would I buy it? Yes. Drink later though.
Shaw + Smith Shiraz 2017
Picked four weeks later than usual and what an outlier.
Woah. Evocative whole bunch spice, pan juices, florals to the fore. It’s fragrant, bitter, driving, long and black fruit edged. Adelaide Hills or Hermitage? The long and sinewy palate is almost too bitter, the tannins pulsate through the very much mid weight palate. Rift with spice. Light and even bony. A superb S & S Shiraz, but an anomaly. I like it.
Best drinking: Likely better next year and will live for fifteen years easy. 18.5/20, 94/100+. 13.5%, $49. Would I buy it? Well worth a punt.
Terre a Terre Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc 5% Shiraz. 10 months in 48% new oak and then a further 18 months in a large 4000L foudre.
Possibly the best Terre a Terra Cab yet. Oak is omnipresent, but the fruit is well up for it. A firm, richly textured, right bank-esque full tilt red with classic cedar varietal character, coffeed oak and thick-cut tannins. Large, powerful and very ripe ala St-Emilion, but has an unexpected balance, Oak tannic. Warm. Firm. A huge statement of a wine, and impressive because of that impact. Long and built to last for decades.
Best drinking: I’d wait. Six to eight years for a start, then twenty years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.4%, $55. Would I buy it? Someone give me a bottle and so I can drink it in a decade.
Tim Smith Wines Mataro 2018
Luxurious Barossa Mataro from the king of generous Barossan reds. Such a lovely texture. Round. Generous, with a smooth and luxurious flow of black berried fruit. It’s such a plump Mataro. Shiraz like, but with blackberries rather than plum. The finish is just a little warm, but otherwise so easygoing and convincing. Tim has done it again.
Best drinking: great now, great in a decade. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $40. Would I buy it? Yes.
Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc 2015
Matured in 50% new oak, the rest 1 year old for 20 months. TA 5.2g/L, pH 3.47.
As ever, built for the very long haul. I find it fascinating that this is the most interesting blend from Brian Croser’s Whalebone Vineyard. Bordeaux inspired, the nose all about oak. Caramel, dark red fruit, raspberries. It’s potent, oaky, chocolatey, alcoholic and a wine of unquestioned depth. On and on and on. It’s maybe too oaky, too ripe, too much. But just like right bank Bordeaux, the best years lie many years ahead.
Best drinking: wait a decade. I know, that is hard, but trust me, that’s when you should drink this. It will live for thirty years (cork withstanding). 17.8/20, 92/100+. 14.8%, $90. Would I buy it? A few glasses.
Soumah The Butcher 2018
Yarra Valley Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo. A ‘modern twist to an age old Australian red blend’.
An oddity. Dark red, and rich fruit. Thick red fruit, grainy tannins. It’s powerful, overt, tannic yet recognisably Yarra based. It doesn’t make sense, but the length and unusual flavours make this intriguing.
Best drinking: worth a few more years in bottle and then drink over fifteen years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $50. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Tim Stevens Signature Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
50/50 Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon. Shiraz is matured in 60% new American oak, Cab in 25% new French oak for 18 months.
The super duper Huntington Estate red and it’s a BIG wine. Bright colours, plushly oaked, it’s so thick and powerful – old school, early noughties style oak and fruit power in this Mudgee red. That said, it’s not unbalanced, just oversized, complete with a thick middle, and oak tannic finish. Ambitious, dense red in every way. Maybe less would be more, but this has flagship written all over it.
Best drinking: will only improve with five plus years in bottle. Then will kick on for twenty years easy. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.1%, $100. Would I buy it? Not for me, but I can appreciate it.